Food Truck Crew Unites To Give Back To Community

By Courtney Borchert Odessa American, Texas

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Six food truck crews including the women from "Tacos and More" have agreed to join forces to host an event at a local park on Saturday. Partial profits generated by the food trucks, for at least a day will go toward park enhancements like more accessible swings with wheelchair platforms to help better serve children with disabilities.

Odessa

A group of food truck newcomers aspires to make a difference in the lives of Odessans.

Tacos and More was established last summer and the bright orange mobile kitchen that often occupies the corner of 42nd Street and Andrews Highway matches the vibrant personalities and big dreams held by those inside.

Mariana Jimenez is the marketing coordinator for Tacos and More as well as the daughter of the truck's owner, Irene Alvarez.

Jimenez said the food truck is led by women in all aspects. Her aunt, Rosa Cantu, is Tacos and More's cook while her sister, Melissa Cortez, oversees the register and refreshments like "aguas frescas," which blend naturally flavored water with fruit and a variety of ingredients.

Alvarez entered a slightly different world when she moved away from her home in the Rio Grande Valley in June for the first time in 54 years.

She said before dabbling in entrepreneurship she worked for Cantu at her two restaurants and meat market. In Odessa, the roles have reversed as Alvarez transitions into a leadership role.

"This is everything to her," Jimenez said. "This is her whole livelihood. She loves the kitchen and what she does."

Alvarez said one of the greatest sacrifices she made was investing all her savings to pursue a dream.

Her daughter said being able to schedule their own hours and work for themselves is something they all strive for.

Alvarez said she feels the food truck will not only benefit her but her granddaughters as well.

"They're going to see that she started from zero and was able to pick this up with the work of everybody," Jimenez said. "We're close and we all help each other a lot. They're going to know that family is everything. I'm an arm, (my mother) is the body, my sister is the leg and my aunt is the head -- it doesn't work if we don't all move."

Alvarez said the food truck provides more than what is on the surface. She said she feels that she will leave this as a legacy and reminder for her grandchildren to always rise to a challenge.

"I saw her cry on slow days when she first started because you don't know if it's going to work," Jimenez said.

"Every day is a risk. That's why we're very grateful for the events Odessa does put on because we do very well at those events. A native might take it for granted, but for her events that require a food truck are sacred."

Jimenez said local food truck crews came together last month to brainstorm ideas to go beyond just serving the public food. She said she pitched the idea of a fundraiser during the meeting to help the Odessa Parks Foundation.

She said the city offers events to the public like the annual fall festival, Parade of Lights and the Firecracker Fandango, and they want to give back to a city that has helped make their businesses successful.

Jimenez expressed her concern for families that have children with disabilities and said she would like to see partial profits generated by the food trucks, for at least a day, go toward park enhancements like more accessible swings with wheelchair platforms. The Odessa Parks and Recreation's website states that Progressive Park on Seventh Street and Tom Green Avenue is the only park in Odessa with such accommodations and adaptive recreation playground equipment.

Jimenez said that although she does not have a child with a disability, she sympathizes with families that would have to drive across town to take their child to an inclusive swing.

Six food truck crews including Tacos and More, Cliff's Food Wagon, Filipino Taste, Texas Fudge, Cane D'Oro and Coffee Weirdo have agreed to join forces to host an event at Floyd Gwin Park Saturday.

Cliff's Food Wagon owner Cliff DeArmond said he previously served on the parks and recreation board and looks forward to the food trucks pulling together to donate to the parks.

"We wanted to kind of do something that could improve the quality of life in our city and have something fun and local for families to do," DeArmond said. "We want families to come out, make a picnic, bring a blanket, sit out in the park and enjoy the day."

DeArmond is celebrating his 10th year as a food truck owner and encouraged residents that have not experienced street food made by the hard-working vendors to "give a food truck a chance" this weekend.

The food truck benefit will have jumpers for children in addition to a car show. Jimenez said there is not a set fundraising goal for the event but said Tacos and More will donate between 10-15 percent of the day's profit toward Odessa park improvements.

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